How the Hasselblad XPan shooting mode on the OnePlus 9 can help you hone your skills as a storyteller

As much as I love digital cameras, and the freedom and flexibility they afford, I sometimes miss film. While there is certainly comfort to be found in the whirr of winding motors and the slap of massive mirrors, it’s the creativity born of adversity, so to speak, that I miss.

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See, shooting film is restrictive. You only get 36 shots per roll, a reload takes time, and you won’t get to see your shots till days later. Shooting film teaches you to plan your shots ahead of time, to compose your shots better, to be a better photographer out of necessity. There’s no spray and pray here.

Powerful smartphone cameras make it easy to capture great images, but the quality of your images depends on how much thought you put into composition and framing. It’s partly for this reason that I’m intrigued by the OnePlus-Hasselblad partnership, and the introduction of an XPan emulation mode via an OTA for the OnePlus 9 series.
XPan, introduced by Hasselblad in 1998, was, and still is, unique. Images at the time were primarily captured on 35 mm film measuring 36 x 24 mm (a 3:2 aspect ratio).

Hasselblad took this a step further by widening the frame to 65 mm (65:24 or 2.7:1), exposing a larger area of film and creating an image that was very similar to cinema’s ultra-wide anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.39:1, but without the oval bokeh and lens flares.
With such a wide canvas to work with, and much like cinema, XPan quickly became a means for telling stories via stills. It’s not a format that’s easy to adapt to, but it’s a rewarding one once you do.

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What’s interesting is that OnePlus with its Hasselblad partnership has sought to emulate not just the field of view, but also the experience of shooting on black and white film stock from that era. Switching to XPan mode in the OnePlus camera app crops the frame to a 65:24 aspect ratio, emulating an XPan viewfinder, and replaces the regular shutter button with a Hasselblad-esque orange one. Using either the wide or the ultra-wide camera, the app also attempts to emulate the 65 mm and 45 mm focal lengths of the original XPan lenses.

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Pressing the orange shutter button captures the image, but you’re first presented with a colour negative that quickly transforms into the final image. For some, this might seem like a gimmick and an unnecessary delay at a time where instant feedback is the norm, but that delay can also be thought of as a means of forcing you to consider a more measured approach to your photography.

You could use the XPan mode as just a filter, but it can be more than that. As a medium for honing your skills as a storyteller and for recapturing the charm and thrill of a bygone era, it’s a step in the right direction.

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